Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered a halt to the placement of any more portable concrete slabs between the predominantly Jewish area of Armon Hanatziv and the adjacent southeastern Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, after several MKs criticized the construction of a temporary wall as a de facto division of the unified city.
Netanyahu’s decision came after authorities already erected parts of a planned 300-meter long wall between the neighborhoods, in a bid to stem a series of terrorist and Molotov cocktail attacks carried out in the area over the past weeks. Six slabs of concrete were placed in the neighborhood Sunday. The move followed the placing of concrete blocks in roads leading out of many Arab East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
At a cabinet meeting Monday, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz lashed out at the initial decision to place the concrete slabs in the capital, calling the move a “prize for terrorists.” He said the wall would not provide residents of Jerusalem with any extra security, and demanded its immediate removal.
“We must protect homes by initiating offensive operations against terrorist infrastructure and incitement in Jabel Mukaber, not through fortification,” Katz added.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon were also both reported to have voiced opposition to the measure, according to the Ynet news site.
Speaking with The Times of Israel on Sunday, a spokesperson for the Jerusalem Municipality stressed that the construction of the barrier was not a long-term solution to firebomb attacks, but a temporary measure aimed at restoring security to the residents of Armon Hanatziv.
A statement from the city described the area as having “a history of stone-throwing and firebombings against Jewish homes and vehicles.”
The southern Jerusalem neighborhood has been the site of a series of attacks over the last several weeks, including a deadly stoning attack a month ago, a fatal shooting and knifing spree on a bus last week, a stabbing attempt on Saturday, and a number of Molotov cocktail attacks.
A significant number of the attackers in the current spate of violence have come from Jabel Mukaber, which borders Armon Hanatziv.
On Sunday, the cabinet approved a bill expanding the rules under which police can stop and search potential suspects. Ministers voted unanimously in favor of amending the current law to allow officers to carry out body searches, even without reasonable suspicion that the subject is carrying a weapon.
The new amendment, titled “Police officers’ frisking authority,” will allow police officers to search any individual’s body, clothes and bags even if there is no reason to suspect the person is carrying a weapon and/or intending to use it. Currently, the law only allows frisking if police have sufficient reason to suspect the person is concealing a weapon.
In other efforts to prevent attacks, the security cabinet of senior ministers last week approved the deployment of hundreds of IDF troops in Jerusalem, as well as a partial lockdown on several Arab neighborhoods in the city.
Other courses of action passed included the demolition of terrorists’ homes within days of attacks and the banning of new construction, the confiscation of property belonging to terrorists who carry out attacks, and the revoking of permanent residency rights from their families.
Restrictions on gun licenses for Israelis have been eased to allow all IDF officers above the rank of lieutenant and non-commissioned officers of and above the rank of first sergeant to obtain a permit. Parallel ranks in the police and other security services may do the same.
The number of Israeli citizens who have applied for gun permits has spiked by more than 5,000% over the past several weeks, the Haaretz newspaper reported Sunday.